Thinking Out Loud

October 20, 2014

The Fright Industry

Filed under: Church, current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:41 am

pumpkin-carving

They appeared just after Labor Day.  Pop-up retail stores in strip malls and indoor centers dedicated wholly to the evening of October 31st.

Pop-up retail is not for the faint of heart. It involves a certain amount of portability in terms of inventory and fixtures, but you’re still installing cash registers and point of sale terminals, hiring staff and presumably obtaining liability insurance; all with a less than 60-day sales window.

In the U.S. and Canada, there is now big money in Halloween. It doubled between 2005 and 2011 in a way that other holidays did not. But numbers vary with each survey. A Forbes survey had it fourth, but had Thanksgiving second — food, no doubt being factored in — while a National Retail Federation survey for the same time period didn’t mention Thanksgiving at all, but listed “Winter Holidays” followed by Mother’s Day, Valentines Day and Easter.  A more recent NRF study had October 31st dead last, by a large margin, and trailing — any guesses? — the Super Bowl.

It eclipses Christmas for many families and neighborhoods in terms of decoration and the participation of children.  This year, having the holiday on a Friday night means some people may buy two costumes for two weekend parties.

Even within the broader Church, there are people who are totally unaware of All Saints Day, the feast day that follows on November 1st.  But in some conservative quarters, and also some not-so-conservative Evangelicals, an anti-Halloween movement started perhaps 20 years ago.  On this topic, I wrote:

…Of all the things that we could NOT do when I was younger — card playing, Sunday shopping, dancing, etc. that we now CAN DO; it’s interesting that there is this one unique area where we COULD do something years ago that now Evangelicals feel we can NOT do…

Taking my kids out trick-or-treating when they were younger was something that I sometimes I had to do rather low-key, as the winds of change among my church community were already blowing.

But this year, for the second time, we’re probably skipping participation in terms of handing out goodies as well. Our neighborhood has grown up somewhat; or perhaps we’re reacting to the mega-industry Oct. 31st has become and are simply trying to maintain a distinct identity.  


 

Redeeming the holiday: A preaching series tied to Halloween.

 

 

 

October 15, 2014

Mark Driscoll Resigns

Filed under: current events — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:19 pm

Rise and Fall of Mars Hill

From Huffington Post to Christianity Today, the story of Mark Driscoll’s resignation as pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle was becoming fairly common knowledge by Wednesday afternoon. Religion News Service (RNS) reported:

Mark Driscoll, the larger-than-life megachurch pastor who has been accused of plagiarism, bullying and an unhealthy ego that alienated his most devoted followers, resigned from his Seattle church Tuesday (Oct. 14), according to a document obtained by RNS.

..continue reading here..

Elsewhere on their site, RNS included the full text of the resignation letter:

By God’s grace I have pastored Mars Hill Church for 18 years. Today, also by God’s grace, and with the full support of my wife Grace, I resign my position as a pastor and elder of Mars Hill. I do so with profound sadness, but also with complete peace…

…I readily acknowledge I am an imperfect messenger of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are many things I have confessed and repented of, privately and publicly, as you are well aware. Specifically, I have confessed to past pride, anger and a domineering spirit…

…Prior to and during this process there have been no charges of criminal activity, immorality or heresy, any of which could clearly be grounds for disqualification from pastoral ministry. Other issues, such as aspects of my personality and leadership style, have proven to be divisive within the Mars Hill context, and I do not want to be the source of anything that might detract from our church’s mission to lead people to a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ…

read the full text here

With respect to his role as a Christian author, the story began with charges of plagiarism earlier in the year which ended with the LifeWay chain banning his books completely, but this issue led to a host of other allegations concerning the management of the Seattle multi-site churches.

For many years a leading voice among the “Young, Restless and Reformed” movement, Driscoll had books published with Tyndale, Crossway, Zondervan and Thomas Nelson.  He is a co-founder of the Acts 29 network of New Calvinism churches as well as The Gospel Coalition. At its peak Mars Hill had 15 branches in five states with total attendance of 13,000.

A Wikipedia page devoted to him gives much space to the controversies which began around 2012 but seemed to increase exponentially into 2014. 

What will Mark do now? He is only 43 years old, like the rest of us, much of his story has yet to be written.

September 13, 2014

Forthcoming: The Rise of ISIS by Jay Sekulow

Filed under: books, current events — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:31 am

Rise of ISISJay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has written a 128-page book that answers many of the questions you may have about what’s going on in the Mid-East. The book is being published by Howard Publishing on October 14th in both print and eBook. Here’s the publisher blurb:

Jay Sekulow, one of America’s most influential attorneys, closely examines the rise of the terrorist groups ISIS and Hamas, explains their objectives and capabilities and how, if left undefeated, their existence could unleash a genocide of historic proportions.

Recently, the world has been shaken by gruesome photos and videos that have introduced us to the now infamous terrorist group known as ISIS. A small but well-financed group, ISIS originated within Al Qaeda with the goal of creating an Islamic state across Iraq and Syria and unrelenting jihad on Christians. Separate from ISIS, the terrorist group Hamas has waged an equally brutal war against Israel. Both groups, if left undefeated, have the potential to unleash a catastrophic genocide.

Rise of ISIS gives a better understanding of the modern face of terror, and provides an overview of the laws of war and war crimes. These laws differentiate between the guilty and innocent, and explain why the US military and the Israeli Defense Forces are often limited in their defensive measures.

A must-have for anyone who wants to better understand the conflict that exists in the middle east, this well-researched and fully annotated volume is invaluable in revealing how this new brand of terrorism poses a very real threat to Americans and the world at large. It also serves as a guide to what we as individuals—and as a nation—can do to stop this escalating violence, prevent jihad, and protect Israel and America from this imminent threat.

August 21, 2014

Sidebar to the Kent Brantly Story

Filed under: current events, missions — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:25 am

A part of the story you may not have heard…

Kent Brantley

Breaking Christian News adapted this story from Assist News Service, but made the headline something that Assist had buried in the final two paragraphs:

The website stated that The JPS Foundation is now accepting donations for Brantly and his family, who lost all of their earthly possessions when he contracted the Ebola virus and was returned to the United States for treatment. After his symptoms appeared, Brantly was isolated and was never able to return to their home. According to JPS, everything is considered contaminated by Ebola and will be destroyed.

“No date has been announced for his release from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, but when he is well enough to join his family, they will face the challenge of replacing everything from household items and clothing to computers and children’s toys,” said JPS in a statement Friday. “All funds will be held in a separate account within the JPS Foundation for the financial support of Dr. Brantly and his family during his recovery.

After all they’ve been through, they face the same loss as would a family whose home was destroyed by fire. But better to have Kent alive, right? 


Related:  

“I’m sorry I’ve got to take this call, it’s Kent Brantly.”

This article is a must-read. It puts Kent Brantly in perspective in a way that will challenge you to the core.  Click to read Scot McKnight’s article:
Kent Brantly: Every Now and Then a Disciple Breaks Out

August 8, 2014

Dear Mark Driscoll

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:25 am

Out of all the rhetoric bouncing around online this week about Mark Driscoll, Ron Wheeler, part of the Mars Hill story from early days, is probably the most poignant. Two-thirds of the way through, it builds to this crescendo:

You can’t preach Jesus and curse people.

You can’t preach Jesus and threaten people.

You can’t preach Jesus and be sexually vulgar.

You can’t preach Jesus and denigrate women.

You can’t preach Jesus and then shun people.

You can’t preach Jesus and give rich people special privileges.

You can’t preach Jesus and steal people’s material

You can’t preach Jesus and cheat your way onto bestseller lists.

You can’t preach Jesus and then force your people to not compete with you in spreading the gospel.

You can’t preach Jesus and then force people to either stay silent or not be paid.

You can’t preach Jesus and seek to become the “greatest of these”.

You just can’t. You see that right?

This is not the only voice asking for Mark’s resignation. There are many. If Mark Driscoll has any other options at this point, I can’t imagine what they are.

Read the whole letter, posted here.

UPDATE (August 8; 11:50 AM) — via Warren Throckmorton: “In a stunning move, the Acts 29 Network leadership has removed network co-founder and Mars Hill Church lead pastor Mark Driscoll from the organization’s membership…”  Click here to read.   Sample of the Acts 29 letter:

…Ample time has been given for repentance, change, and restitution, with none forthcoming. We now have to take another course of action.

Based on the totality of the circumstances, we are now asking you to please step down from ministry for an extended time and seek help. Consequently, we also feel that we have no alternative but to remove you and Mars Hill from membership in Acts 29. Because you are the founder of Acts 29 and a member, we are naturally associated with you and feel that this association discredits the network and is a major distraction.

We tell you this out of love for you, Mars Hill, Acts 29, and most significantly, the cause of Christ, and we would be irresponsible and deeply unloving not to do so in a clear and unequivocal manner…

 

August 4, 2014

Remembering Braxton Caner

Braxton CanerThe death of Braxton Caner, the 15-year old son of Baptist writer Ergun Caner has haunted me all weekend. I’ve followed various internet rabbit trails trying to extract some meaning from his sudden, untimely death, apparently at his own hand. Why?

From the obituary:

…Braxton loved three things: God, his family and sports. When he got to Texas, he added four things to that list: Football, his friends, weight training, and Hannah Spencer. Braxton only loved one girl in his whole life — He and Hannah were inseparable for these last two years, and reflected a godly love far beyond their respective ages… Before he died, Braxton began researching collegiate programs in sports fitness and kinesiology, and wanted to become a sports trainer. Braxton only lived 15 years and four months, but he did more in his brief life than many people do in a lifetime. He traveled with his parents, visiting 41 states. He attended over fifty weeks of church camp in his life, on every major ocean. He learned to surf in Hawaii, escaped a moose in Alaska, got chased out of Canada, helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, and ducked out of the way of a lion in the Serengeti. He got to help do a chapel for his beloved New England Patriots and learned to drive his F150 pickup truck on dirt roads of Texas. Braxton’s faith in Christ was also reflected in his life: He was the best big brother to Drake, led his cousin to Jesus shortly after his own salvation, and was a positive role in the lives of many others. He traveled around the world on eight mission trips, including Kenya twice, Tanzania, Israel, Mexico, the Bahamas, England and Wales…

While there has been speculation as to what propelled Braxton to this action, I think this is one of the news stories that will only become clearer with time. His father is not without controversy, and some have noted* that Braxton was being bullied on his Twitter account by enemies of Ergun Caner. He left no note…

I leave the comment section open to anyone else who has followed this story and wishes to add their insights; please be respectful… 

*UpdateTuesday, August 5th, 10:30 PM EST: The investigative website The Wartburg Watch thoroughly chronicles the role that certain people would appear to have played in Braxton’s sudden death. Writer Darlene Parsons begins, “This is one of the hardest posts I have ever written;” and many gut-wrenching paragraphs later, concludes, “Things have gone way too far.” To read that article click here.


News search results from last week:

Evangelicals Grieve as Braxton Caner, 15-YO Son of Christian

Christian Post-Jul 30, 2014

July 31, 2014

Picketing a Place of Worship

A bunch of people plan to carry signs in a demonstration outside a Belleville, Washington church on Sunday morning. That’s hardly news. Heck, Fred Phelps was doing that for years.

But there’s more at stake with this one. The little protest has already garnered some mainstream media interest, and it hasn’t even happened yet.

The whys and hows of this story are complicated, and unless you’ve been following this for some time, it’s rather hard to catch you up. Suffice it to say that the volcano involving Mars Hill, the church co-founded and led by Mark Driscoll has been waiting to erupt for several years, though really the church culture is causing something more resembling imploding than exploding.

Social media has played a major role in getting the story told. I’m fairly certain Jesus didn’t have blogging in mind when he said this, but even if the context is different, the words, as Luke records them, certainly fit: “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. (12:2,3)

Mark Driscoll - Not many of you should be teachersOne blogger has suggested that Driscoll really only has two options, to really repent (i.e. not the repentance seen in a recent half hour video) or to resign. Perhaps. He could also wait; i.e. try to ride out the storm.

With all the Christian movie-making that’s been happening lately, I would be very surprised if a movie about Driscoll’s life to date is not already in the works.

The point I want to make here is that that this Sunday a small protest will take place in the upper left corner of the U.S., but it is one that has repercussions in a much larger arena. Whatever single issue the demonstrators think it’s about, it raises visibility on so many other issues about Driscoll and Mars Hill.

It’s about church structure, secrecy, accountability, finances, hiring, firings, spiritual abuse, and how each of these things impacted the lives of countless families over the years. It’s about the overtones of everything from the role of women, to plagiarism, to how the authority structure in some Calvinist settings mitigates against truth and transparency.

Like I said, it’s the stuff that movies are made of, though perhaps only those who are ecclesiology nerds or theology nerds would buy the tickets.

But it impacts your church, and my church, and the church our children will inherit.

 

July 26, 2014

#WeAreN

#WeAreN Twitter AvitarThose of you reading this in late July or early August 2014 will notice a symbol in the upper right of this blog that you may not recognize. Cathy Lynn Grossman of Religion News Service explains:

#WeAreN is sweeping the Christian Twittersphere as churches, organizations and individuals change their avatars to the Arabic letter “Nun.”

It’s the symbol for “Nazarene,” or Christian, used by Islamic State militants in Iraq to brand Christian properties in Iraq as part of their effort to drive out an ancient Christian community with threats to convert or die.

Today, the trending avatar is intended as a global message of solidarity in the place everyone now turns for that — social media.

Switching to the Nun avatar is a gesture reminiscent of the long-standing (although factually debunked) legend that Danish Christians adopted Jewish star armbands during World War II in solidarity with Danish Jews…

For the full background on this, here is a repeat of the link we ran on Wednesday to Breaking Christian News.

To follow the Twitter trend minute by minute, click here. Because using the symbol online is the equivalent of wearing a ribbon, you might see the term “twibbon” used on Twitter!

 

 

July 11, 2014

Church Property Destruction Rampant Worldwide

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:48 am

Pew Research carried a story yesterday showing the number of church building demolitions carried out worldwide in 2012, highlighting three countries, China, Russia and Tajikistan. The article begins…

Pew Research - Persecuted Church

The Chinese government’s demolition of a large church in the city of Wenzhou in April and recent reports of other, similar demolitions drew attention to fears of persecution among Christians in that country. A new Pew Research Center analysis finds that such incidents are not isolated to China or Christians.

[...To read the article in full, click here...]

The U.S. Immigration Crisis

Filed under: current events, social justice, Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:43 am

Immigration Jesus Cartoon

I believe that the US/Mexico border is allowed to ‘leak’ because there are jobs that Americans simply don’t want to do. But protesting appears to make sense when the unemployment numbers are high. It’s complicated.

Does anyone know the origin of today’s cartoon? It was on Twitter last night, but uncredited.

Older Posts »

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.